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Journal Article


Kutchinsky B. Int. J. Law Psychiatry 1991; 14(1-2): 47-64.


Institute of Criminal Science, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.


(Copyright © 1991, Elsevier Publishing)






We have looked at the empirical evidence of the well-known feminist dictum: "pornography is the theory--rape is the practice" (Morgan, 1980). While earlier research, notably that generated by the U.S. Commission on Obscenity and Pornography (1970) had found no evidence of a causal link between pornography and rape, a new generation of behavioral scientists have, for more than a decade, made considerable effort to prove such a connection, especially as far as "aggressive pornography" is concerned. The first part of the article examines and discusses the findings of this new research. A number of laboratory experiments have been conducted, much akin to the types of experiments developed by researchers of the effects of nonsexual media violence. As in the latter, a certain degree of increased "aggressiveness" has been found under certain circumstances, but to extrapolate from such laboratory effects to the commission of rape in real life is dubious. Studies of rapists' and nonrapists' immediate sexual reactions to presentations of pornography showed generally greater arousal to non-violent scenes, and no difference can be found in this regard between convicted rapists, nonsexual criminals and noncriminal males. In the second part of the paper an attempt was made to study the necessary precondition for a substantial causal relationship between the availability of pornography, including aggressive pornography, and rape--namely, that obviously increased availability of such material was followed by an increase in cases of reported rape. The development of rape and attempted rape during the period 1964-1984 was studied in four countries: the U.S.A., Denmark, Sweden and West Germany. In all four countries there is clear and undisputed evidence that during this period the availability of various forms of pictorial pornography including violent/dominant varieties (in the form of picture magazines, and films/videos used at home or shown in arcades or cinemas) has developed from extreme scarcity to relative abundance. If (violent) pornography causes rape, this exceptional development in the availability of (violent) pornography should definitely somehow influence the rape statistics. Since, however, the rape figures could not simply be expected to remain steady during the period in question (when it is well known that most other crimes increased considerably), the development of rape rates was compared with that of non-sexual violent offences and nonviolent sexual offences (in so far as available statistics permitted). The results showed that in none of the countries did rape increase more than nonsexual violent crimes. This finding in itself would seem sufficient to discard the hypothesis that pornography causes rape.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 400 WORDS)

Language: en


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